Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The heaviest New Year's Eve guitar jam ever: Hendrix does "Machine Gun"

For many years I listened to a cassette tape recording of the sacred New Year's Eve (1969) performance of "Machine Gun" on my home stereo (and my Walkman, when I wanted to feel elevated as I loped down the sidewalk). 

In the late '90s I bought the CD to better hear the glorious Stratocaster tones, and that was enough. I was grateful the recording existed and never imagined being able to see the magical (spontaneous) Hendrix creative process at work.

In the early '00s I happened on a VHS documentary which featured snippets from the famous live recording of "Machine Gun" with awed commentary from Lenny Kravitz. This was like finding the Holy Grail. I rewound the tape a few times and told myself I'd rent the video again when I needed a fix.

And on the eighth day, programmers created Vimeo, where I can now watch the video below whenever fancy strikes.

How many ways do I love thee? 

The black and white film strips this down to the music and the music alone, as it should. 

Then there's Jimi Hendrix tuning, like a mere mortal, and improvising for the first 90 seconds, because he can. 

Even as history is in the making, the camera eye slips into a psychedelic cloud at 3:48. 

At 4:19, we have the grandest, most balls-out string bend ever committed to fretboard, akin to a suspended air raid siren, as The Solo to Beat All Solos starts. 

At 7:21, when Hendrix could easily go back to the verse, he instead continues on with more wah-wah pedal gravy. 

And all the while as Jimi steers this three-and-a half minute, mellifluous solo, he barely looks at his guitar, as if it were an appendage. 

We will never see his like again.


Other "Truth and Beauty" guitar hero essays:

          Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," a first-hand                                                                                account of Vaughan's final concert

here for "It was 70 years ago today:  an appreciation of Jimi Hendrix"
  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'"          
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #4: Dweezil Zappa Nails 'Eruption'"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"

 here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"

and here for "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Ronettes - "Frosty the Snowman"

Some years ago I received the Phil Spector boxset as a Christmas present and discovered "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector" inside. 

I can take or leave most Christmas pop, but in time the Wall of Sound, girl group interpretations of Yuletide classics grew on me. (Click here for the full album). 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Avery Molek. Seven-year-old drummer.

I'm a guitarist who loves the drums. 

In my late teens and early twenties (my hard rock/metal years) I was a disciplined air drummer. When I couldn't "play" a part I rewound the tape as many times as were necessary until I "had it down."

In my thirties, I had a chance to sit behind a real drum kit and became a passable four-four drummer in a jam rock context. 

And I've always listened closely to drums. Other than the complicated rhythm patterns of Elvin Jones and other jazz giants, I can generally visualize drum parts that I can't play. When I hear a skilled drummer, I'm instantly engaged in both heart (the rhythmic vibe) and head (the technique).

Which brings us to seven-year-old drummer and Internet phenomenon Avery Molek. 

My first exposure to Avery was the below rendition of "Hot for Teacher," recorded when he was just six. Van Halen was my favorite band at the time this song was on the airwaves, so I was intimately familiar with the drum track. Though Avery didn't use four bass drums in the introduction as Alex Van Halen did, he mostly blows through the rest of this song. Watching Avery the first time, I experienced cognitive dissonance; it was hard to wrap my head around the image of a little boy with such advanced motor skills. 

But what impressed me even more was Avery's interpretation of "Girl Gone Bad," off of "1984," the last release by the original--the only--Van Halen. One, I'm impressed Avery found and learned an underappreciated deep album track which came out twenty years before he was born (according to Avery's website, he chooses what to play). Two, though "Hot for Teacher" has a famous introduction, to my ears "Girl Gone Bad" has a more aggressive and dynamic drum track which offers a better window into the primal (and precise) power of Alex Van Halen.

For closeness of interpretation, I tip my hat to Avery's version of "Enter Sandman." Though I'm much more partial to the material on the early Metallica albums, I've heard this song (and visualized the drum parts) many, many times simply by existing these past two decades. I would be willing to bet that Avery's technique in this video is not noticeably different than Lars Ulrich's. Something tells me this kid has a bright future.

Friday, December 13, 2013


David Grant tries to convince his mother 
not to dampen dad's fantasy
What's in a life? 

This question lies beneath the surface of "Nebraska," the latest release from Alexander Payne ("Election," "Sideways," "The Descendants"). 

The story is driven by Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), a 70-something Montana man of few words. Woody is disconnected from those around him physically (he has bad hearing and is averse to eye contact) and metaphorically. Kate Grant (June Squibb) heaps scorn on her husband for his drinking problem and shortcomings as a father; Woody's oldest son Ross (Bob Odenkirk), a local newscaster, sees him in an equally unflattering light. They both want to place him in a care facility. 

Woody intends to redeem a million dollar sweepstakes letter he received in the mail, though his immediate family members insist that it's a hoax. Like many of the characters in
"Nebraska," Woody needs something to believe in. Scenes of Woody hobbling along a highway, a hospital sidewalk, railroad tracks--seemingly lost but utterly determined--recur throughout the movie.

The emotional heart of "Nebraska" is Woody's relationship with his younger son David, a
Bruce Dern and Stacy Keach, back from obscurity
stereo salesman played by Will Forte.
David, who is much more forgiving than his mother and brother, indulges Woody's wish to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to redeem his winnings.

An unexpected development on the road trip takes father and son to Woody's home town of Hawthorn, Nebraska. In Hawthorn, Woody reconnects with family and friends from deep in his past, including Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), a former business partner and one of many people trying to angle in on Woody's apparent million-dollar windfall. Some of the characterizations feel like caricatures, narrative shortcuts used to depict static aspects of small town life, but there are amusing moments. Along the way, David learns things about his father that he never knew. 

Woody Grant revisits the house he grew up in
Where all of Payne's movies have elements of sadness leavened with humor, "Nebraska"--which lacks the dynamic comic presence of Matthew Broderick ("Election") or the Paul Giamatti-Thomas Haden Church duet in "Sideways"--leans more toward the former. The humdrum nature of the characters' lives is reflected in the black and white film stock and the winter setting:  snow blankets everything, and the trees are barren. The landscapes tend to be flat, the vistas far-reaching but gray and empty. When an act of kindness comes at the end, it's hard to shake the cumulative melancholy of the first 100 minutes. 

Even so, "Nebraska" has stayed with me all week, and like many of Alexander Payne's other movies, I suspect that it would yield riches on repeated viewings.
                                          Other "Truth and Beauty" film reviews:

                   "There must be something in the water: the magic of 'Muscle Shoals'"

                                                                        "Inequality for All"

                                                             "A spoiler-free review of 'Mud'"   


"Honest Abe Makes Sausage" (about "Lincoln")

"Errol Morris Strikes Again" (about "Tabloid")

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II

Last year, around the time a push button confection was taking the pop world by stormon its way to knocking the mighty Justin Bieber out of the top spot in YouTube viewsI was struck by an urge to write about the flesh-and-blood guitar stylings of Frank Zappa

Zappa's best work was decades in the rearview mirror, but I forged on with the assumption that my ode to Zappa would be a low-traffic niche post, an act of public service on behalf of timeless art. 

To my surprise, the post was a hit. It drew a steady stream of readers and became the most read post in the great guitar solos series by a factor of four. 

Today, on the 20th anniversary of Zappa's passing, I will re-visit the vaults to once again celebrate a musician who mattered.


We open with "Stinkfoot" off of the 1974 classic, "Apostrophe." This performance arguably features Zappa's strongest lineup, the band which included Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ian and Ruth Underwood, and George Duke that recorded both "Apostrophe" and its predecessor, "Overnite Sensation." Here Zappa plays his signature Gibson SG, with a wah-wah pedal for spice. A helpful Zappa fanatic cut out the beginning and end of the song so we can treasure Frank's wailing guitar in isolation.   

"Muffin Man" has one of Zappa's most recognizable riffs, the kind of big, lumbering riff that roamed the land during the dinosaur rock era. This recording from 1977 includes a twofer:  a tasty blues bends-and-flash lead from the estimable Adrian Belew at 1:00 followed by Zappa's epic solo. Highlights include Frank's nifty use of hammer-on pull-offs with his fretting hand so he can slap skin with members of the audience at 2:17, the impossibly rapid flurry of notes at 2:49, the fretboard close-up at 3:28, and the dry ice vapors rising from the stage, a sign that some truly heavy rock was in the air.

"Chunga's Revenge" is a fusion instrumental that Zappa performed live. Using a sunburst Les Paul which wasn't a regular part of his rotation, Zappa starts out quietly to get the crowd warmed up. The distorted vibrato at 2:43 signals that Frank is about to let rip with anarchic fury and attendant gyrations. (*Added bonus:  the YouTube discussion thread for this video has a debate for the ages about technique for technique's sake v. the power of jagged, authentic expression).

The live version of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" below features Zappa with a Stratocaster and a huge (yet well-rehearsed) backing band. As with "Black Napkins," the guitar moves seamlessly between a main melody, serrated fills, and improvised solos. No less an authority than Dweezil Zappa called the studio version of "Easter Hay" "the best solo" his father had ever played. That's a big claim, but if by "best"one means most lyrical and most beautiful, I'm inclined to agree.

     In memory of Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940-December 4, 1993)


                                          Follow Dan Benbow on Twitter                                                           

More Zappa on "Truth and Beauty"

Frank Zappa's public debut

Other "Truth and Beauty" guitar hero essays:

          Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," a first-hand                                                                                account of Vaughan's final concert

  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'"          
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #7, Buckethead meets Bernie 
Worrell and Les Claypool

here for "An appreciation of '1984' as Eddie Van Halen turns 60"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #8" Freddie King's 'San-Ho-Zay'"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reasonable Doubt: 50 questions for lone nut theorists

"What I'm saying to you is, this is not something I'd take to court. I'm talking about a judgment of history. I'm not talking about admissible evidence under a court standard. I'm talking about a jigsaw puzzle and you put little pieces in. Do I have the last piece, certainty, proof beyond a reasonable doubt? No. Could reasonable people disagree with me? Yes."

-G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, whose final report concluded that there was "probably" a conspiracy in the murder of John F. Kennedy

I'm a doubting Thomas.

don't think 9/11 was an inside job.

Roswell was a hoax and theories about a faked moon landing are patently ridiculous.

Like coroner Thomas Noguchi, I believe Marilyn overdosed; I don't think she was murdered.

I have doubts that James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan acted alone, but I'm open to the possibility that the official story is true.

JFK's assassination is another matter.

Despite Posner and Bugliosi's prodigious efforts, I can't buy the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman, a feeling which gets stronger as I learn more. 

Though less than one third of Americans believe the lone nut theory (the highest degree of support this view has had in decades), most U.S. establishment media continue to treat the notion of a conspiracy as batshit crazy. In this framing, people who take the Warren Commission's major conclusion at face value are rational and realistic, while those who point up the many inconsistencies and gaping holes in the Oswald-as-lone gunman narrative are overimaginative nutjobs with too much time on their hands.

This position falsely conflates two very distinct ideas. Vincent Bugliosi's 53 pieces of evidence point to Oswald's involvement in the assassination, but they don't prove that Oswald acted alone

The men lurking in and around JFK's assassination were a motley crew of interlocking directorates that worked in the shadows - rogue CIA operatives, government informants, anti-integrationist reactionaries and rabid anti-communists, high-ranking members of the Teamsters and the Mafia, drug dealers and gun runners, right-wing Texas millionaires, and men who orchestrated the overthrow of democratically-elected third world governments on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. Who better to keep a secret?

The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination is no time for bedtime stories. In the spirit of democratic inquiry, I submit the following 50 questions for lone nut theorists. (Thoughtful, sourced comments are welcome. And encouraged). 


1. Is it at all odd that arch-segregationist Joseph Milteer told an FBI informant in Miami (13 days before the assassination) that Kennedy would be shot "from an office building with a high-powered rifle," after which "they’ll pick up somebody within hours after…just to throw
the public off?"

2. Is it at all odd that Rose Cherami--a former stripper at Jack Ruby's club who had been hit
by a car while on a cross-country trip, she claimed, to procure heroin for Ruby-- told at least two witnesses (Louisiana police lieutenant Francis Fuge and Dr. Victor Weiss) of a plot to kill Kennedy within 48 hours of the assassination? [Cherami died in 1965 after again being hit by a car, on a highway two miles outside of Big Sandy, Texas, according to an official report.] 

3. Could a reasonable person find it hard to believe (possible, but not probable) that Lee Harvey Oswald--who'd had mediocre scores on his marksman tests in the Marines--had the grace under pressure to twice hit a moving target, over trees, with a $12 Mannlicher-Carcano mail order, bolt-action rifle?  

4. Could a reasonable person doubt that one bullet hit both Governor John Connally and John F. Kennedy and produced seven injuries, a theory questioned by Connally, his wife, and three Warren Commission members (Richard Russell, Hale Boggs, John Sherman Cooper)?

5. If three shots were fired, as the Warren Commission claimed, why did an acoustics expert for the House Select Committee on Assassinations find that four shots had been fired?  

6. If all of the shots were fired from the Texas Book Depository, why did 21 police officers, Korean War vet Bill Newman and Abraham Zapruder (who captured the world famous Zapruder film),  Orville Nix (who took the second most famous home movie that day), and many other witnesses think that a shot came from the grassy knoll? [An instinct which was seconded by Dr. Ronald Jones --a physician who saw Kennedy's body in the hospital--in a recent interview with Piers Morgan.]

7. According to "A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination," a new book by New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, "Dr. James Humes, the Navy pathologist in charge of the Kennedy autopsy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, burned his original autopsy report in the fireplace in his family room. Humes’ superior officer was so concerned that the pathologist himself might be eliminated by the plotters who killed JFK that he ordered Humes to be escorted home that night." 

How can we trust the official autopsy report when the original is missing?

8. Whatever happened to John F. Kennedy's brain?


Two intertwined areas of Kennedy Administration policy figure most prominently in the
Carlos Marcello
assassination conspiracy theories:  Attorney General Robert Kennedy's war on the mob (and the Teamsters

Union, who worked hand-in-glove with the mob) and the CIA-Mafia collusion to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Robert Kennedy's aggressive investigation of the Mafia and the corrupt Teamsters Union was unprecedented:  "In the last year of the Eisenhower administration the Justice Department convicted only 35 low-level mobsters. By the end of 1963 RFK [Robert F. Kennedy] had pushed that number to 288, including high-ranking bosses. More alarming for the Outfit, while it was using the Teamsters pension fund to build casinos, RFK targeted Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa with a team of investigators known as the Get Hoffa squad. The squad’s first indictments against the union leader were for accepting payoffs from trucking companies and for subsequent jury tampering in those trials. In the summer of 1963 it brought new charges involving pension funds." By one estimate, "successful prosecutions of the mob increased 700%" on Robert Kennedy's watch. 

Hoffa wasn't the only big fish under fire at the time of John F. Kennedy's assassination. New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello was on trial and Santo Trafficante, the Miami mob boss, was being investigated. Marcello had earlier been arrested at his house in the middle of the night by FBI thugs and summarily deported by jet to a jungle in Guatemala (the country of Marcello's birth, according to a fake birth certificate), on Robert Kennedy's orders.   

John Kennedy had also disappointed members of the Mafia (who had lost a major source of income when Fidel Castro nationalized their casinos in 1959), rabid anti-Castro Cubans, and their backers in the intelligence community with his Cuba policies. 

Kennedy refused to provide Air Force backing to the land-based invasion of Cuba at the
Santo Trafficante, at right
disastrous Bay of Pigs. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, Kennedy ignored the advice of the hawks in his cabinet (who wanted the U.S. to invade Cuba) and cut a deal with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In the fall of 1963,
the Kennedy Administration sent ambassador William Atwood to Cuba to discuss normalizing relations, which couldn't have pleased the anti-Castro coalition. 

But the Warren Commission paid little attention to the CIA-Mafia alliance to get rid of Castro or the mob's potential motives for killing John F. Kennedy, concluding that "the evidence does not establish a significant link between [Jack] Ruby and organized crime."

9. Within hours of the assassination, J. Edgar Hoover leaked stories to the press which claimed that Oswald had acted alone. 

As was revealed in a House Select Committee investigation conducted from 1976-1978, two days after the assassination Hoover told Walter Jenkins (a White House aide),"The thing I am concerned about, and so is [Deputy Attorney General] Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." 

Why was Hoover so invested in this story line and so reluctant to let justice take its course?

10. Is it possible that the inclusion on the Warren Commission of Alan Dulles (the former CIA head who had been ushered out of his post after the Bay of Pigs fiasco) could have contributed to the commission's reluctance to pursue CIA-Mafia anti-Castro collaboration or any other potential intelligence connections to the assassination?

11. Is it possible that Warren Commission member Gerald Ford's clandestine reporting to the FBI (who were charged with gathering evidence for the investigation) undercut the independence and credibility of the commission?

12. As quoted in "JFK: How the Media Assassinated the Real Story," an investigative piece published in the Village Voice, "The FBI had the electronic media wired as well. A December 11, 1963, teletype from the FBI office in New York to J. Edgar Hoover indicates that NBC had given the bureau assurances that it would 'televise only those items which are in consonance with bureau report [on the assassination].' The eight-page FBI message details the substance of NBC's research, including the development of leads. 'NBC has movie film taken at some one hundred and fifty feet showing a Dallas Police Dept. officer rushing into book depository building while most of police and Secret Service were rushing up an incline towards railroad trestle [i.e. the grassy knoll; see #5, above].'" 

Why did the FBI conceal the instinct of so many law enforcement officers in Dealey Plaza?

13. Why did the FBI try to block Mark Lane (who published "Rush to Judgment," one of the first, most important books to criticize the Warren Commission) from having a town hall meeting about the assassination in Manhattan in February 1964?
J. Edgar Hoover

14. According to "The Man and his Secrets" by Curt Gentry, Hoover refused to comply with the Kefauver [Senate] Committee (which investigated organized crime in 1950-1951) and the FBI never wiretapped Miami mob bosses Santo Trafficante or Carlos Marcello, despite their deep involvement in criminal enterprises. 

Morever, when the Warren Commission convened, Hoover kept his organized crime task force out of the investigation. 

Could Hoover's hands-off attitude toward organized crime have influenced the commission's claims that Oswald and Jack Ruby had no significant links to organized crime?

[According to "Coincidence of Conspiracy,"by Bud Fensterwald Jr. and Michael Ewing, an aide to Warren Commission member Hale Boggs claimed that Boggs told him, "Hoover lied his eyes out to the commission – on Oswald, on Ruby, on their friends, the bullets the guns, you name it." Boggs died in 1971 when a plane he was on disappeared without a trace over Alaska.]


15. Dallas district attorney Henry Wade and Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr told the Warren Commission that they'd found the number of James Hosty (an FBI agent) in Oswald's address book and a federal government voucher for $200 when he was arrested.
They concluded that Oswald had been a government informant since September of 1962. [Also, Hosty reportedly destroyed a note Oswald had written to him "a week to two weeks before the assassination"after Oswald was shot by Ruby.]

Is there any truth to the allegation that Oswald was a government informant, and if this is true, what would the implications be?

16. Dallas Sheriff's Deputy Buddy Walthers told the Warren Commission that he found "Freedom for Cuba" [emphasis mine] literature among Oswald's belongings in family friend Ruth Paine's garage, which would seem at odds with the image of Oswald as a left-wing radical. 

On May 13, 1975, William Gaudet (a long-time CIA informant) told attorney Bernard Fensterwald that the street scuffle Oswald got into in the summer of 1963 (with anti-Castro men who purportedly objected to the Fair Play for Cuba literature Oswald was handing out) was part of a "PR operation" and that "The Fair Play for Cuba deal....[was] nothing but a front and was one of the dreams of--I think Guy Banister?" Gaudet repeated this claim to emeritus Berkeley professor and assassination researcher Peter Dale Scott when interviewed for a Canadian television program in 1977. 

If Gaudet told Fensterwald and Scott the truth, is it fair to think that Oswald wasn't the left-wing radical he claimed to be, but a willing participant in a hidden agenda?

17. Is it a coincidence that Oswald was bailed out after the scuffle by Emile Bruneau, an associate of two of Carlos Marcello's top aides?

18. Is it a coincidence that Oswald's uncle and surrogate father Charles "Dutz" Murrett had been a bookie for the New Orleans mob, headed by Carlos Marcello?

19. The flyers Oswald handed out in public listed 544 Camp Street as the Fair Play for Cuba
David Ferrie
address. 544 Camp Street was not only the same address used by an anti-Castro group (the Cuban Revolutionary Council), but was in the same building as the office of Guy Banister. Banister, an associate of G. Wray Gill, one of Marcello's lawyers,was a friend of David Ferrie. Ferrie, a former FBI agent whom Oswald had known since childhood, was an investigator on the deportation proceedings against Carlos Marcello and was in court with Marcello on the day Kennedy was assassinated

Is it possible that Oswald was just one degree of separation from Carlos Marcello? 

20. Is it also a coincidence that Oswald--whom many have claimed may have been a government spy--was stationed at a military base in Atsugi, Japan--which had a CIA training center that housed U2 spy planes--in 1959 and 1960?

21. Why was the CIA closely tracking Oswald from 1959-1963 and how could their officers have concluded on October 10, 1963 that he had "matured" (was not a threat) in a cable to Win Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico?

22. According to Dan Moldea's "Hoffa Wars," when Win Scott (who believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy) died, CIA counterspionage spy James Angleton flew to Mexico and rifled the Scott family safe to remove key CIA documents (a story seconded to Peter Dale Scott--see #16--by Win Scott's son and stepson).

Could Angleton have been covering up intelligence information about Lee Harvey Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City to obtain a visa to Cuba, and if so, would that information have shed any light on the whys and wherefores of the Kennedy assassination?

23. If the CIA (or members of the CIA) had no connection to the assassination, why did they suppress evidence from the Warren Commission in 1964, during the congressional investigations of the '70s, and why do they continue to fight the release of 50,000 pages of documents related to Kennedy's assassination to this day?

24. How was Oswald--who lone nut theorists claim was a left-wing revolutionary--able to get a job which required a security clearance at Jagger Chiles Stovall, a graphic arts company which handled classified documents for the Army Security Agency? 

25. The wife and daughter of George De Mohrenschildt, a wealthy Dallas resident with long-standing connections to oil men and the CIA,  told author Anthony Summers that De Morhenschildt had helped Oswald get this job. The cordial relationship between the two men is a matter of public record. 

If Lee Harvey Oswald was a loner, a fringe character with no ties to U.S. intelligence, what motivation would the wealthy, powerful George De Mohrenschildt have had to befriend him? 

[In 1977, De Mohrenschildt told Edward Epstein of Reader's Digest that he had befriended Oswald as a favor for the CIA. The same day, De Mohrenschildt committed suicide, after receiving a card from Gaeton Fonzi--see #42--an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.]


26. How are we to believe that a jaded strip club owner with nine arrests (which included disturbing the peace, carrying a concealed weapon, and assault), who sometimes beat and
routinely exploited women (including prostituting them) was so broken up by the president's assassination that he shot Oswald in a fit of patriotism? 

27. Is it a coincidence that Jack Ruby made multiple trips to Havana--the location of lucrative mob-controlled casinos--in 1959? [The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Ruby was most likely a courier for gambling interests.]

28. Many of the women who danced in Jack Ruby's club came from a New Orleans club owned by Carlos Marcello's brother. Would it be logical to conclude that Ruby knew Marcello?

29. If Ruby had no significant links to organized crime, as the Warren Commission claimed, why did he meet with Miami mob boss Santo Trafficante when the latter was in a Cuban jail, following the Cuban Revolution?

30. How could the Warren Commission conclude that Ruby had no significant links to organized crime despite his time as a runner for Al Capone, an organizer for the mob-controlled Waste Material Handlers Union local, his membership in "the Dave Miller gang," and relationships with a long list of mobsters (or Teamsters who worked with the mob) such as Jake Arvey, Paul Dorfman, Harry Hall, Lenny Patrick (see #46), Dave Yaras, and Dallas mob boss Joseph Civello?

31. Ruby's phone records showed seven conversations with organized crime figures who had been prosecuted by Robert Kennedy in the months leading up to the assassination. There was also a marked increase in long-distance calls to organized crime-linked individuals during this time, according to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. 

If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime--or if those links had faded away by the time of the assassination, as some claim--why did he call all of these men, at that time?

32. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, why was he in contact with Alexander Gruber, an associate of Mickey Cohen, both before and after the assassination?

33. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, why was he visited in prison, six days after the murder of Oswald, by Joseph Campisi, the number two mob guy in Dallas?

34. If Jack Ruby had 
no significant link to organized crime, why was he considering going into business with Harold Tannenbaum, an mob figure in New Orleans, shortly before the assassination?

35. If Jack Ruby had no significant link to organized crime, how was the House Select Committee able to draw up a 1,044-page report of Ruby's mob connections in which it concluded that Ruby "had a significant number of associations and direct and indirect contacts with underworld figures?"

36. Based on Ruby's demonstrable links to organized crime, might a reasonable person conclude that he killed Oswald not out of patriotism, or grief, but to cover up the crime of the century?


One feature of some prolonged Mafia-related trials is the murder or disappearance of key witnesses. The Kennedy assassination follows a similar pattern. Comedian and author Richard Belzer recently published "Hit List" about "50 mysterious deaths of witnesses to the
Sam Giancana
JFK assassination,” including "...CIA agents, FBI agents, reporters, people who had foreknowledge or people who spoke too much afterward." [Here is a helpful chart which contains much of the same information in abbreviated form.]

Even if we presume, as the Warren Commission did, that Ruby had no significant ties to organized crime, the mass of corpses that coincided with eye-opening post-Watergate congressional investigations raises a number of questions. Namely:  

37. If the mob had no connection to JFK's assassination, why was Sam Giancana, a Mafia kingpin who'd survived the violent world of the Outfit for decades, gunned down in his own home the night before he was to testify before the Church Committee about the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro?

38. If the mob had no connection to JFK's assassination, why was Charles Nicoletti (a mob figure involved in the Mafia-CIA attempts on Castro's life who Chauncey Holt, a Mafia-CIA man, told Newsweek he had driven to Dallas the day of the assassination) murdered in 1977, just one day after he was contacted by a House Select Committee investigator
Johnny Roselli

39. Why was Giancana's right-hand man, Johnny Roselli (who'd been the first Mafia member solicited for a mob-CIA alliance against Castro) found "sawed in half and stuffed inside an oil drum floating off Biscayne Bay [Florida]" just weeks after testifying at the Church Committee hearings into "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders?"

40. Is it at least a little fishy that William Sullivan, who had been chief of FBI espionage operations in Mexico and Latin America (with connections to Win Scott, see #22), died of a hunting accident a few days before he was to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations

[Sullivan was one of six former FBI men who died over a six-month span in 1977 that were set to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.]


One of the lone nut theorists' favorite claims is that no "smoking gun" has emerged which proves a conspiracy. 

It appears more likely that these people have got their man (Oswald) and decided to ignore the many testimonials of people in professed proximity to the assassination.

For example:

41. FBI informant Jose Aleman testified in secret session to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that Santo Trafficante had said of John Kennedy, in 1962, "He is not going to be re-elected, you don't understand me, he is going to be hit." Perhaps fearing for his safety, Aleman danced around the meaning of "going to be hit" in a public hearing. In 1983, Aleman committed suicide.

Was Aleman lying in secret session?

42. Then there was David Moralesa right-wing CIA black ops figure who'd helped in the overthrow of Guatemala's democratic government in 1954 and had deep involvement in the Mafia-CIA
one of the few public photos of David Morales
efforts to upend Castro.

According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, one of the most respected JFK assassination sites, "House Select Committee] investigator Gaeton Fonzi [see #25] traced Morales to Wilcox, Arizona shortly after Morales' death, and talked to his lifelong friend Ruben Carbajal and a business associate of Morales' named Bob Walton. Walton told Fonzi of an evening, after many drinks, when Morales went into a tirade about Kennedy and particularly his failure to support the men of the Bay of Pigs. Morales finished this conversation by saying 'Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn't we?' Carbajal, who had been present at the confession, corroborated it. 

Was Fonzi making this up, or were Walton and Carbajal lying to Fonzi? 

[Author-activist Bill Simpich fingers Morales as near the center of the assassination in his new book, "State Secret," about Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City (see #22). Morales' involvement in the assassination was also alleged by ex-CIA man E. Howard Hunt in conversations he had with his son in 2003. Moreover, Morales was very likely in the Ambassador Hotel ballroom the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.]

43. According to a Discovery Channel documentary and "Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination" by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, Carlos Marcello told a cellmate (FBI informant Jack Van Laningham, who was wearing a wire) in a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, "I had the little bastard [JFK] killed." 

Was Marcello just boasting?

44. As he was nearing death, John Martino (who had been in the anti-Castro-Mafia-CIA nexus) told two witnesses--investigative journalist John Cummings and Fred Claassen, described as a "former business partner"--that he'd been involved in the plot to kill John F. Kennedy. 

Martino also reportedly told Claassen, "The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for–he was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theater [the movie house where
John Martino
Oswald was arrested after the assassination]. They were to meet Oswald in the theater and get him out of the country, and then eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake….there was no way we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.” 

Martino's wife Florence later told JFK assassination author-researcher Anthony Summers "that her husband had advance knowledge of JFK’s assassination. 

'Flo, they’re going to kill him,' she recalls [Martino] saying in November 1963. 'They’re going to kill him when he gets to Texas.'”

Were Claassen and Cummings and Florence Martino lying?

45. In a PBS "Frontline" special on the mob's role in the Kennedy assassination, private investigator Ed Becker told Jack Newfield (an investigative reporter for the Village Voice) that Carlos Marcello had said "that’s going to be taken care of, or words to that effect” when Becker brought up the subject of Robert Kennedy's deportment of Marcello a year before the assassination. 

“I says 'you mean Bobby Kennedy?'” asked Becker.

“[Marcello] said 'no, you don’t do that'…what it was coming down to was he was saying ‘you cut off the head and the tail dies."’

Was Ed Becker lying too?

According to "How the Outfit Killed JFK,"one day when [mobster and Jack Ruby confidant Lenny] Patrick showed up at the safe house [FBI agent Jim] Wagner was waiting for him with a lie detector. 

“[Wagner] told Lenny an examiner was on his way to strap him into the polygraph so [he]
Lenny Patrick
could find out what [Patrick] was doing with the cash. Patrick confessed to stealing it. In the spirit of the moment, the agent decided to ask about a few other subjects as well. Wagner had once been a history teacher and was always fascinated by the assassination. He remembered Patrick was supposedly a friend of Jack Ruby’s.

"Patrick had always downplayed their relationship, but he admitted to Wagner that he had been 'Rubenstein’s' mentor in the Outfit, having plucked him out of a boxing club. Patrick said he taught him how to be a bookie, and when Ruby’s best friend was killed for taking bets without paying his street tax, Patrick was the one who banished Ruby to Dallas. Patrick admitted he was one of the last to speak with Ruby before he killed Oswald.

"After hearing that, Wagner said, 'I backed up, and I asked, Then who hit Kennedy?'

“He said, ‘We did it.’

“‘But who did it?’

“‘You know. Momo [Sam Giancana, see #37] had the main guys there.’"

Was Patrick lying too?

47. The same article mentioned Frank Ragano, the biggest source so far in the Oswald-didn't-act alone camp. According to the story, "The mob bosses’ go-between with the Teamsters was [Santo] Trafficante’s trusted trial lawyer Frank Ragano, who was also defending [Jimmy] Hoffa against the government’s charges. According to Ragano, in August 1963, when the mob bosses had the lawyer approach Hoffa yet again about the loan [from the
From left:  Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Frank Ragano
Teamsters pension fund], the union leader responded, 'the time has come for your friend [Trafficante] and Carlos to get rid of him. Kill that son of a bitch John Kennedy.'

"At breakfast the next morning in a corner of Marcello’s restaurant, Ragano passed along Hoffa’s request. He expected the mob bosses to laugh it off, but they responded instead with stony silence. Looking back on the incident in his 1994 memoir, Ragano wondered whether the assassination conspiracy was already under way."

Ragano repeated this story in an episode of "Frontline" (see #45) in which he added another relevant anecdote. In 1987, Santo Trafficante, looking back on his life, told Ragano, "Carlos fucked up. We shouldn't have killed Giovanni [John Kennedy]. We should have killed Bobby." Trafficante died four days later.

Was Ragano lying too?

48. Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter and the curator of JFKfacts.org,
recently interviewed one of Jack Ruby's girlfriends. This former girlfriend, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Ruby "never mentioned President Kennedy" and "had no choice" when it came to killing Oswald...."Jack had bosses, just like everyone else.” Of Ruby's statement to a secret service agent after killing Oswald--that he'd done it to spare Jackie Kennedy a public trial--she said, "that was absolutely made up."

Is Ruby's former girlfriend lying too?

49. In 1964, Robert Kennedy resigned his post as Attorney General. Justice Department tracking in the years after Kennedy's departure showed steep reductions in the number of organized crime convictions, the number of attorneys employed to fight organized crime, as well as the days in court, days in the field, and days in grand jury

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, a far-from-radical mainstream institution with strict standards of scrutiny, concluded that there was a "high probability" of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination, that Marcello and Trafficante possessed "the motive, means, and opportunity" to murder the president," and that the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby had "all the earmarks of an organized crime hit, an action to silence the assassin, so he could not reveal the conspiracy." 

Is the proximity of the mob to both Oswald and Ruby, and the huge benefits the mob got from JFK's death, pure coincidence? 

50. Considering Robert Kennedy's war on the mob and JFK's actions vis-à-vis Cuba, Oswald's connections to the mob (and possibly right-wing intelligence elements and/or anti-Castro Cubans), Ruby's 1,044 pages worth of connections to the mob, the shoddy work of the Warren Commission and their suppression of key information, the conclusions of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the murders of numerous high-level mobsters who testified or were called to testify before the committee, and the detailed claims of a conspiracy by numerous people in and around the assassination, might a rational person hold reasonable doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone?